Where the loss to romance comes in in these admirable new arrangements of modern commerce it is hard to see. Of course a new element of danger is thus introduced into the routine of our daily lives, but when was danger an enemy to romance? The “bright face” of this particular “danger” who would be without? The beloved essayist from whom that last phrase is, of course, adapted, declared, as we all know, that to marry is “to domesticate the recording angel.” One might say that the modern business man has officialized the ministering angel—perhaps some other forms of angel as well.
In their work, then, as in their play, men and women are more and more coming to share with each other as comrades, and really the fun of life seems in no wise diminished as a consequence. Rather the contrary, it would seem, if one is to judge from the “Decameron” of the newspapers. Yet it is not very long ago that man looked askance at woman’s wistful plea to take part even in his play. He had the old boyish fear that she would spoil the game. However, it didn’t take him long to find out his mistake and to know woman for the true “sport” that she can be. And in that discovery it was another invention of that wicked modern science that was the chief, if humble seeming, factor, no less than that eclipsed but inexpressibly useful instrument (of flirtation) in the hands of a kind providence, the bicycle.
The service of the bicycle to the “emancipation of woman” movements has perhaps never been acknowledged by the philosopher; but a little thought will make evident how far-reaching that service has been. When that near day arrives on which woman shall call herself absolutely “free,” should she feel inclined to celebrate her freedom by some monument of her gratitude, let the monument be neither to man nor woman, however valiant in the fight, but simply let it take the form of an enthroned and laurelled bicycle—for the moment woman mounted that apparently innocent machine, it carried her on the high-road to freedom. On that she could go not only where she pleased, but—what is even more to the point—with whom she pleased. The free companionship of man and woman had begun. Then and forever ended the old system of courtship, which seems so laughable and even incredible today. One was no longer expected to pay court to one’s beloved, sitting stiffly on straight-backed chairs in a chill drawing-room in the non-conducting, or non-conducive, presence of still chillier maiden aunts. The doom of the duenna was sounded; the chill drawing-room was exchanged for “the open road” and the whispering woodland; and soon it is to come about that a man shall propose to his wife high up in the blue heavens, in an airship softly swaying at anchor in the wake of the evening star.
THE LAST CALL
I don’t know whether or not the cry “Last call for the dining-car” affects others as it affects me, but for me it always has a stern, fateful sound, suggestive of momentous opportunity fast slipping away, opportunity that can never come again; and, on the occasions when I have disregarded it, I have been haunted with a sense of the neglected “might-have-been.”